A Tale But No Evidence of the Journey

David Vanderveen

“ABC Wide World of Sports did a five minute segment on the Aquathon in 1996 finding it one of the new “extreme sports.” Aside from this minor slip, we have been successful in keeping the event out of the press.  For example, Sports Illustrated asked for rights to cover the event in 1999.  Permission was refused.” –The Laguna Aquathon website.


The first rule of Aquathon is: there is no Aquathon… So it may or may not have happened last weekend, and I certainly did not participate in it or get the t-shirt.


Aquathon or not, if you live in Laguna Beach and have not taken the time to run, swim, climb, stand up paddle (SUP) or kayak the coastline, bays, caves and beaches, you should. It’s amazing. Last Sunday, a large unofficial mass of people traveled from Emerald Bay at 8:30 a.m. to the Ritz Carlton many hours later in a migration locals know as the Aquathon.


Being of Frisian decent and dubious Viking heritage, some friends and I started what we call The Bloody Coast Tour. We consider it a community service as we SUP the mysterious Aquathon course and stop at various watering holes along the way, giving awards to proprietors who are deserving.


This year we stopped at The Deck—a newly opened bar on the beach at Pacific Edge Hotel. The Deck features a trifecta of shrimp, jalapeno and olive garnish in their bloody mary that can double as a breakfast salad. The bloody was excellent and improved with a cold beer. We gave them the “best bloody” award.


Dr. Gary Arthur from Health-in-Balance as well as his wife, Lisa and key staff member, Karin Berg, were part of the Bloody Coast medical team. Alex del Toro and Eric Zuziak are the key organizers while Eric’s wife, Thasa, is the den mother. Cameron Zuziak, a Laguna Beach High Schooler, was an essential part of the tribe but not served at any of the establishments. Jamie Glazer exhibited amazing kayak skills as Nick Ross overcame all obstacles. Dan Shapero matched six-pack against David Kravitz’s twelver. Jeff Liu provided much-needed moral support while Russ Radach provided both style and substance.


Our second stop was The Surf and Sand. The beverages were fine and the staff was welcoming. They encouraged us to warm up in their stunning hot tub. The Surf n Sand won the “most hospitable” award. It is a beautiful hotel that knows how to support local wildlife.


Our final stop before the push to Salt Creek and the Ritz Carlton was the fabled Montage resort. Over the years, my company has held numerous board meetings there. Our distribution partner has rented the resort for their global forum meetings. Unfortunately, this year there was new, aggressive staff at the pool who quickly kicked us out and then refused us service at the pool restaurant for not having shirts.


We did decide to give Nick, the pool restaurant manager at Montage, the “best save” award for quickly finding a quiet deck for us to receive sustenance (at Studio below). The ice-cold tequila with orange slice and powdered cinnamon training wheels were also voted “best shot.”


Somewhere a few hundred yards off Victoria Beach, I tossed my new Pentax underwater camera that I had been using to document the day to Russ. As I bounced the camera off of his leg, I said, “Hey, when it pops up, take a couple shots on the way in. I’d like to be in a few pictures too.” Then I noticed the camera wasn’t coming up. Apparently, Pentax engineers think underwater cameras should sink…fast. I dove after it, but it was gone.


The finish party at the Ritz is fantastic. Contestants and their families are encouraged to use the pool. They have a special BBQ and the revelry continues. It’s probably better that I lost the camera and any evidence of the event that doesn’t officially exist. Some memories are best left in our heads.


David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].

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  1. Gary Cogorno

    Great Article Dave, thanks for your well written words to explain our fine non-event. The SUP division has found quite a following. Next year we will be sure to notify our Laguna ocean-front establishments of the date. Will certainly include a copy of your article. The Ritz has certainly embraced the invasion of locals as a non-guest event ! No reason the Laguna merchants should not also enjoy extra guests that day. gary

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